The 5 Stages of Finding Out Someone Hates You

So! You’ve found out someone hates you.

If you’re anything like me — socially awkward, strange, loud, and maybe a bit too intense in general — this probably happens to you all the time, being hated. You know the stages well and are used to people disliking you at first and maybe forever.

But if you’re a warm, friendly, well-spoken extrovert, you might not have so much experience in this part of life. No, not everyone is going to like you, and it goes without saying at this point, but that does not mean that it isn’t a rude awakening for pleasant people to experience it for the first time.

Luckily, I, a being-hated expert, am here to walk you through some of the deep-inside feelings you will experience when you find out someone’s been talking smack, rolling eyes, or exercising general disdain in your specific direction.

Arm yourself with knowledge against a sea of haters.

Stage 1: Self-Doubt

“Is it my fault?” you think.

…It’s your fault. It’s always your fault, probably. Close your eyes and replay in your mind every conversation you have ever had with this person, leading up to their discovery of their hatred of the person that is you. Recall every facial expression they have ever made at you. Recall every microexpression of every part of every facial expression. The eyebrow twitch, conspiring with the crinkling of the corner of the mouth. The twitch and the crinkle, what do they say to each other? How do they intersect? What do they mean?

It was something you did. You did something to make them hate you.

Wonder what you did that made their face go that way and made them hate you. Think about it over and over until you wear out the metaphorical VHS tape of audio-visual memory. Think, think, think about every word you said. How were your words misconstrued? Did you even construe them properly in the first place? Did you even mean what you think you meant? Did you?

Think about calling your hater, now. To apologize. For everything. First to apologize, then to figure out what you are apologizing for, then apologize for having to ask, because you are a boor, and you had no idea what you said wrong, and how dare you? How dare you not know?

Sinner. Sinner.

Breathe. Think about being extremely nice and extremely witty and smart and chill to your hater to prove that you are not worth the hate. Make a list of all the ways you’re going to demonstrate your niceness and chillness and smartness.

Here are some ideas for the list, to get the ball rolling:

  1. Bake the hater a cake.
  2. Ask the hater a lot of questions about themselves
  3. Read a difficult work of literary fiction and have a few opinions on it, so as to appear intelligent, etc.

Now throw that list away, and write a new list. Because the first list is why no one likes you. The methodology of the first list is what got you in trouble in the first place. You came on too strong. You don’t want to come on too strong. Write that at the top of the list: “Don’t come on too strong.”

Then:

  1. Bake a cake and bring it to wherever the hater happens to be, not for them, but just in general for everyone there, it’s whatever, chill.
  2. Ask the hater some chill questions about themselves, not too many, don’t be weird.
  3. Read Lolita, talk about that, everyone likes that, etc.

Try a few things on the list. Does it work? If not, proceed to stage two.

Stage 2: Rage

Hang fucking on, though.

Why the fuck did you need to make the list in the first place? Why did — Christ.

Because, were you the one being an asshole in that situation? No. In any of the situations? No. You don’t dislike anyone. Or, maybe you do, but when you hate people, they deserve it. You dislike the inherently dislikable. You are not inherently dislikable, not really. You were just, like, standing here, hanging around, having no offensive opinions, being perfect, and they decided they didn’t like you for unstated and stupid reasons.

Seethe.

I mean! How? Can they just? How can they just walk into a room and decide not to like people? Who does that? You decide they are callous and wasteful because they can just take you and throw you away like so much tissue paper on Christmas morning. Just, into the garbage. Not even recycled. You are worth being recycled at least. It is they, the hater, who belongs in the trash…!

Swear they woke up in the morning wanting to hate you. Swear that their attitude sucked, not yours, and they went about their day that day, probably every day, just looking for enemies and looking for people to sneer and scowl and snicker at.

Write a mean letter to them and then tear it up and set the tiny pieces on fire. Create an alternate account and write mean comments about them on Reddit. Take a long shower and, as you wash your hair, replay your last contact with them in your head, only imagine yourself fucking owning their ass with sweet powerful arguments and driving them to recognize the fundamental brokenness inside of them.

Decide that their hatred is what you need to survive. Decide you crave it. Call it the meat food to feed the beast within, the fuel for the flames that have subsumed your heart.

Throw the cake you baked into the dirt. Proceed to stage three.

Stage 3: Sorrow

Why don’t they like you, though? Why do they have to be a hater? What is it about you that people can’t see past? What is it about you that inspires so much derision, so much distrust. Is there some aura around you, some cloud? Some fog that hangs over you?

Grab a tissue and blot your eyes. No, you’re not crying, you’d never cry over this, but — don’t they know? How can they not know? You’ve been hurt. You’ve been destroyed. You are a nest of baby bunnies and they are a riding-lawnmower and how can they not know that they’ve clipped your foot? You were just sitting in the grass being all cottony and adorable and now you are bleeding into the soil and the lawnmower is just going away and the man who is driving it is probably a very nice man, but why couldn’t he see your nest?

This “hater” (are they even a hater? Is that fair to call them that? Oh, what’s fair?) does not care because they are lovely and you are unlovely. They have everything and you have nothing, and your positive regard is worthless. Remember the thing with the trash and the recycling bin? You’re just a person in a dumpster. You’re just a bunny in a dumpster.

Oh, god.

Take a walk. Take a long, long walk outside. Look at all of the people walking down the road, walking with other people, being liked by one another.

Sob alone on a bench and wonder why no kind, old, wise stranger will sit next to you and ask what’s wrong. Bet $100 dollars that it’s the aura/cloud/fog around you that’s driving those old/wise strangers away. Be right. Be so, so right.

Walk home alone. Google “why does everyone hate me?” Read 15 millennial-written essays that make you go “oh me too,” because, finally, you’re understood, and then go to follow the writers on Twitter but then see that they all have many followers and many interactions with friends so clearly people like them and clearly they don’t understand being universally reviled like you do.

Cry alone, deep into the night. Wake up dehydrated and proceed to stage four.

Stage 4: Calculated Destruction Gambit

So.

This is how it’s going to be.

It’s not going to stop, is it?

It’s never going to stop.

The sidelong glances. The cold stares. The haters, unrelenting.

You are steel. You are a blade. You do not need them. You do not need those that hate you. You do not need anyone.

Become emotionally divested from your own life. Vow to be a machine who does not feel. Vow to be the careful kind of person who turns pain into productivity. Who sets plans in motion. Create a plan. Buy a new notebook for the thoughts of this new, logical, indomitable, unfeeling you, and write those plans down.

A new list.

It goes like this:

  1. You will squeeze just a little bit of toothpaste out of the hater’s toothpaste tube every morning and let it dry inside the cap so that it remains crusty no matter how many times they clean it.
  2. You will arrive 10 minutes early to work every day to jam the hater’s stapler.
  3. You will greet every question or comment the hater throws your way with a “what?” and make them repeat themselves, forever.
  4. You will wipe the side of your face every time you talk to the hater, so that they think they also have something smudged on their cheek, even if they don’t.

You will do these things. You will seed unimaginable, untraceable discontentment in your hater’s life, so subtle, so gradual, so clever, that they will have no idea that their mind has cracked until it is too late, until everything is spilling out, coming undone, making a mess, until they know the level of suffering that they so callously laid upon you.

And because you are now a person of steel instead of a person of flesh, you will watch it happen with an unreadable expression. “Oh, no. Him? He and I are perfectly fine,” you will say, totally chill, when people ask you about it. “She and I are actually good friends.”

You are cold. You are ice.

Stage 5: Acceptance

Only, don’t do any of those things, because you lack the chutzpah, because you’re not evil, because you’re nicer than you give yourself credit for.

Eventually, stop thinking about it. Forget to pick the scab until it falls off and heals over in its own time, new skin. Don’t hate-read their Twitters or look for subtle digs in conversation. Consider that maybe they were right about you, or maybe they were wrong, or maybe the universe aligned such that their particular personality and yours will clash throughout the ages.

All valid. You’re not going to like everyone you meet; not everyone you going to meet is going to like you. It’s part of growing up, coming to peace with that. And look on the bright side: now you don’t have to like them, either.

Use this experience to practice “civil negative regard.” It’s an important skill to have as an adult. Learn to carry on with people who you might not want to be around. Or, alternatively, find things to respect about them and respect them when they don’t respect you. Be the bigger person, and not just because you want them to feel small by comparison, though that’s an added bonus.

Avoid them altogether, because sometimes that’s the best option, and we’re not in high school anymore.

Or you could wait it out. It could have been a bad first impression, so give them another chance to give you another chance. Maybe they’ll come around. Maybe they won’t, and if they don’t, and they say something rude, you could always stay silent, and smile your best conspiratorial smile, and think about the toothpaste and the stapler, which, I mean, you decided not to do that vengeance stuff from before, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s off the table forever.

This post originally ran on Thought Catalog.